Leslie H. Wexner (b. 1937) was born in Ohio to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He dropped out of law school to help his parents, who opened a small clothing shop after struggling for many years in low-level jobs in the garment industry. At 26, he loaned $5000 and opened his own sportswear store for young women, called ‘The Limited’. The store was a hit, pulling in $160,000 in sales in its first year. Just 6 years later, the company went public. Wexner has been its CEO since then, making him the all time longest-serving CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Over that time, he has taken his company to new heights, starting a number of new businesses, and acquiring others, including Victoria’s Secret, La Senza, Pink, Bath & Body Works, and Abercrombie & Fitch. He now oversees 3000 locations around the world, and his net worth is estimated at around $6 billion. A sizable portion of this wealth goes to charitable causes. Wexner has donated millions to the United Way, Hillel, Birthright, and Ohio State University. He has given over $160 million to the Columbus Foundation, and pledged $100 million for medical and cancer research. His own Wexner Foundation provides funding for Jewish leadership programs, master’s degrees in rabbinics and Jewish studies, Jewish day schools in the US and universities in Israel, as well as sponsoring Israelis studying at Harvard. For his extensive philanthropic work and business acumen, Wexner has won numerous awards and honourary degrees.
Judith Arlene Resnik (1949-1986) was born in Akron, Ohio to Jewish-Russian immigrants from Ukraine. As a child she went to Hebrew school, then attended a public high school where she was the only female student to achieve a perfect SAT score. She went on to become an electrical engineer, eventually earning a Ph.D in the subject. Resnik first worked as a circuitry designer for tech giant RCA, as well as serving as a biomedical engineer for the National Institutes of Health (at the Laboratory of Neurophysiology) and a systems engineer for Xerox. In 1978 she joined NASA, going on her first space flight in 1984 on the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Discovery. That made her the first American Jew in space and the first Jewish woman in space. She quickly became beloved by the public for her on-board humour and space acrobatics. Resnik went on her second tour in space with the Challenger in January of 1986. Sadly, the mission ended quickly when the space shuttle tragically exploded in Earth’s atmosphere, killing all 7 crew members. It took nearly 6 weeks to find the crew compartment at the bottom of the ocean floor. Resnik’s body was among those that were identifiable. She was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. That same year, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established the Judith A. Resnik Award for outstanding contributions to space engineering. The moon’s Resnik Lunar Crater is named in her honour.
Words of the Week
A man without a woman is not a man. – Rabbi Elazar (Talmud, Yevamot 63a)
Edward Sonshine was born to Holocaust survivors in a displacement camp in Germany. When he was two years old, the family moved to Canada where Sonshine studied to become a real estate lawyer. After 15 years working as a lawyer, he realized that he knew far more about real estate than his clients and wanted to get into the business. However, it was the early 1990s, Canada’s real estate market was in a terrible slump, and Sonshine was in deep debt. Nonetheless, he founded RioCan in 1993, and over 20 years developed it into Canada’s largest real estate investment trust. It now has $14 billion in assets, investing in some 350 commercial properties across North America, including malls, supermarkets, office buildings, and movie theatres. Over the years, Sonshine has become famous for his solid business ethic, as well as active community involvement, and charity work. For these reasons, he was awarded Canada’s Outstanding CEO of 2013. He credits his wife of 45 years for being responsible for much of his success, as well as his tough upbringing as both a Jew and an immigrant, all of which ensured that he worked hard. “I spent the first three or four years,” he describes, “going around knocking on a lot of doors explaining to people what a REIT [Real Estate Investment Trust] was… I was just looking at making a living. I was worried about bringing home groceries.”
Words of the Week
Money is fire: it can destroy and annihilate, or illuminate and warm, depending on how it is used. – Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk